Dive In To A Body Sculpting Water Workout

If you are looking for a way to mix up your current routine, would prefer a low-impact workout for your joints or you would like an alternative environment to a gym, this workout is something worth giving a go!

Rid yourself of the stereotypical idea of ‘aqua aerobics’ because this water workout is an effective calorie burning (~600kcal/h) and lean muscle growth promoting fitness regime that will leave you exhausted in a good way! The continuous resistance of water forces the muscles to engage through ranges of motion that they would not ordinarily have to if the same exercise was performed in the air making the workout fun, varied and very effective.

The best way to go about the following exercises is to perform as many reps as possible in a specific time frame. Starting with 30 second sets and increasing this length of time as your fitness improves. This is beneficial for a number of reasons. It helps you to keep track of your progress, challenge yourself by trying to beat your own scores and reduce the tedium that repetitive workouts can bring.

A little warm up prior to your water workout is a good idea. You can swim a few lengths, tread water or run underwater. Anything that will increase your heart rate and prepare your body for the exercises to come is better than no warm up at all. Aim for three sets of each exercise to begin with. You can choose whether you do three sets of each exercise and move on or opt for a circuit training style of completing the workout.

The Exercises:


This exercise targets your whole body particularly abs, arms, glutes and hamstrings. Ideally you should be in the deep end of the pool so that you can perform the full range of motion that this exercise requires. Begin by treading water, making small circles with cupped hands to keep your head above the water. Lift your leading leg straight in front of you at hip level, higher if you are more flexible. It is important to keep the opposite leg pointing towards the bottom of the pool. Hold this position for 5s and then switch legs as fast as possible.

You will need to engage your muscles to hold this position while staying afloat and to control your body when changing legs.

Wave Maker

This exercise is great for targeting the back, abs, glutes and legs. Begin this exercise by holding onto the edge of the pool with one hand. Place your other hand against the wall just below the water line with fingers pointing downwards. This will help with stability during the exercise. Extend your legs behind you at surface level, keeping them together and then kick like a dolphin (mermaid if you prefer). Initiate the motion with your core and hips and transfer this down through your legs finishing at the tip of your toes. Kick as hard and fast as possible to generate the biggest waves. You may find it difficult to keep momentum going for 30 seconds at first. If you become tired before the time is over, don’t quit. Instead, separate your legs and kick as if you were swimming front crawl.

Pike Scull

This exercise is great for targeting abs, particularly the lower abdominals which are more difficult to target during crunches and the like. This exercise involves holding a pike position and treading water along the length of the pool (sculling). The tips of your toes and your head should be held about the water forming a V shape with your body. As with an L sit, the closer you can get the tips of your toes towards your head (small V) the better it is for your abs. For your best chance of staying afloat, move your arms in circular motions with cupped hands at hip level. If you are finding it difficult to keep your toes at the surface of the water, widen the V shape and contract your abs to hold the shape! Depending on your speed, stamina and the length of the pool you are using you can establish how many lengths of the pool equates to one set.

Otter Roll

The otter roll is particularly good for targeting the obliques but it is a great full body workout too! You can perform this exercise without any equipment or you can choose to include a float. Beach balls work best. The bigger the size of the ball, the higher the difficulty. Begin the exercise floating on your back, hugging the ball to your chest, with legs outstretched and feet together. Use your entire body to roll yourself to the right over the top of the ball and returning to your starting position to complete one revolution. Alternate the direction of the roll. Continue for at least 30 seconds to complete one set. If you fail a revolution, return to your starting position and try again.

Squat with Vertical Jump

This exercise needs to be performed at a depth at which you can stand and squat with your head remaining above the water. You should not be able to squat with your shoulders and chest out of the water because the shallow water will make the exercise easier. Standing with your feet shoulder width apart, lower yourself into a squat position. Do not lower yourself further than 90⁰. From here power yourself up and out of the water. As you jump, reach your arms towards the ceiling. When you land, go straight back to a squat position and repeat. Perform this exercise for 30 seconds minimum.

Crunch and Bicycle

Another great abs focused dynamic exercise which engages the whole body. To perform the bicycle or crunch exercise, prop yourself up onto the edge of the pool with either your hands (if you have flexible shoulders) or your elbows. Alternatively, you can use a shallow step if the pool has one. Facing into the centre of the pool, lift your legs so that they are level with the surface of the water and together. Try to keep your whole body in line and avoid dropping your glutes towards the floor of the pool.

If you are performing the crunch, drive both knees towards your chest and return legs to their starting position. Aim to do as many as possible in 30 seconds.

If you are performing the bicycle, drive one knee towards your chest while keeping the other leg extended and then switch as fast as possible. Continue to switch legs for 30 seconds before resting and repeating the exercise.

Water Run

Running at speed in water is particularly difficult due to the buoyancy. It takes a lot of strength and power to drive the legs in a running motion efficiently under water. Run lengths of the pool and time yourself. See how fast you can complete one length. This exercise is great for improving aerobic capacity, fat burning and toning legs and core.

To increase the difficulty, complete a length with high knees. Try to drive your knee towards your chest as fast and hard as possible before returning it to the floor and switching.

Poolside Dip

This exercise involves repeating the motion you would go through to get yourself out of the pool without steps or a ladder. Perform this in deep water so you cannot push off the pool floor to propel yourself upwards. Place your hands on the edge of the pool with fingers facing away from the water. Move your shoulders and chest over the side of the pool until they are in line with your fingertips and then push yourself upwards. You should finish with your arms locked straight and the top half of your body (above the hips) out of the water. You can repeat this exercise simply by lowering yourself back into the water and then pushing upwards again.

To make the exercise more aerobically effective, complete a length of the pool between each poolside dip. You can choose to swim, run or scull the length.

Tread – No Arms

This exercise targets the glutes, hamstrings and calves. Begin treading water and then cease your arm motions. If you have never tried this before stay close to the edge of the pool in case you cannot manage to stay afloat. If you find treading with no arms relatively easy, lift your arms out of the water and reach for the ceiling. Aim for 30 seconds at first and build up this time frame as your endurance improves. If you require a distraction to help keep you going, you can get a friend to play catch with you in the pool. Go beyond your depth and concentrate on catching the ball they throw towards you. You won’t be able to use your arms for treading water because you are focused on catching the ball and the fun element should help you continue this difficult exercise for an extended period of time.

About the Author

Job Role Sports Nutritionist and Social Media Coordinator Qualifications Bsc Sport and Exercise Science Steph has a competitive athletic background which spans 19 years. As a child she performed with the English Youth Ballet and had performed on the West End stage by the age of 10. Her enthusiasm for sport and fitness continued to grow as she did, encouraging her to learn more about nutrition and training. She began using her knowledge and personal experience to help others when she began coaching at the age of 16. From here, she went on to study Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Essex during which time she also received the Most Promising Newcomer Award from her University to mark her outstanding contribution to sport. During her first year of study she was introduced to partner stunt acrobatics and artistic gymnastics. After one year of dedicating herself to a lifestyle revolving around her sport, she was training with the best team in the UK who are currently ranked fifth in the world. Steph has worked in both the private and public sector coaching children and adults from grassroot to elite level as well as providing them with cutting edge advice on how to reach their goals. Steph has received awards for her choreography and has competed nationally and internationally meaning that she can back up her scientific knowledge with a wealth of experience. As our resident Sports Nutritionist, Steph is here to provide the most current and evidence based fitness, health and nutrition information to help you reach your health and fitness goals.
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